Law is complicated, integrity is not

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. WHO AM I?

I am a private criminal defense attorney. My job is to be the lawyer for people accused of a crime, but they need to hire me to do so. I am not employed by the government, 

2. DO I REALLY NEED A LAWYER?

Realistically, yes. People acting as their own lawyer make all kinds of wrong assumptions; here are just a few.

  • People assume they are guilty when they are not. They might have a defense they don’t realize, or might assume police told them the truth about facts reported by a witness, or evidence police claim to have. BUT police may legally lie to a suspect about such to obtain a confession or other information.
  • People assume DUI blood and breathalyzer tests are accurate and reliable. BUT often they’re not. Police tell people to blow “hard” because it makes results up to 200% falsely high; FURTHERMORE, breathalyzers in Alameda County are programmed to assume your breath is colder than it actually is, again, to achieve falsely high results. Blood analysis is equally fraught with error. 
  • People want the case to end ASAP. They want it over; they want to miss less work; avoid a lawyer’s fee altogether; or assume the punishment will be lowest if they admit blame on the first day of court. BUT if the prosecutor would have given you an opportunity to earn a dismissal of your case (called a “Deferred Entry of Judgment”), OR the judge would have done the same (“Diversion”), OR the prosecutor would have offered to reduce the charge (like “Wet Reckless” instead of “DUI”), OR dismiss some of the charges or enhancements (like “Hit and Run,” “Refusal,” “BAC above .15,” etc …) you will not obtain that dismissal or reduction of charges if you resolve your case on the first day of court. 
  • People assume they need to be innocent to escape punishment. BUT if the police or prosecutor committed an illegality, even a technical one, that might require dismissal of the case, or suppression of evidence. Alternatively, the prosecutor might be unable to prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt” even if the charges are true. Last, the prosecutor might simply be unwilling to have any trial altogether (i.e. bluffing) if the case is particularly trivial or difficult for them to prove.
  • People assume a conviction comes off their record at some point. BUT every conviction appears on a background check forever; the “10-year lookback period” does not mean it disappears after 10 years; and an Expungement granted does not prevent employers from seeing when you were convicted, or what you were convicted for, FOREVER. Thus, you should take your case seriously, and only enter a guilty or no contest plea after carefully assessing all your other options.

3. DO I NEED TO ATTEND A LOT OF COURT DATES THEN?

If you are charged with any misdemeanor, except domestic violence, your attorney can attend court without you as long as the judge didn’t specifically order your presence at the previous court date. I’ve handled many cases where my clients never go to court, despite having many court dates.  Even if you are charged with domestic violence or a felony, although you must go to the first court date, your attorney can appear without you after that by means of a written waiver. In my experience, even the simplest cases require 3 to 4 court dates.

4. WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT “CHARGES" before going to court?

Only the District Attorney’s Office (the DA) decides whether to file criminal charges or not, and files them; not victims; and not the police. After police write an arrest or investigation report, the DA’s Office reads it and decides whether to; file the charges the police recommend, file no charges, or even file charges different than the police recommended. The DA’s office has one year from the commission of a misdemeanor, and at least 3 years from the commission of a felony, to file charges. WHICH MEANS if charges aren’t filed yet by the time of your “Promise to Appear” court date, they CAN STILL be filed afterward. Most cases are charged after their original “Promise to Appear” court date because the DA’s Office is typically slow and backlogged.

5. SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING DUI ARREST — 10 DAYS TO REQUEST DMV HEARING!

One must affirmatively request a DMV HEARING from DMV WITHIN 10 DAYS OF THEIR ARREST or else they forfeit the opportunity to fight suspension of their driver’s license. The license suspensions range from 4 months to 4 years, depending on the circumstances. It’s ALWAYS beneficial to request a DMV hearing (unless your license is already suspended for a different reason). By requesting a DMV Hearing, you may avoid license suspension entirely. Even if you don’t however, requesting a DMV hearing helps shorten the total license suspension time (and time required with an ignition interlock device) by helping the Court-Imposed license suspension, and DMV-Imposed license suspension (which are different/separate) to run concurrently.

Contact me, and I will help you to request a DMV hearing, without hiring me, and without any fee. 

6. SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE — FIRST COURT DATE!

Prosecutors often request a Protection Order for the victims of Domestic Violence at the first court date, even if no one in the Prosecutor’s Office has spoken to the victim, and even if the victim is not in court requesting it. Judges typically grant these requests unless the victim appears at the first court date and objects to it. Such a protective order would prevent you from being able to communicate with the alleged victim; from coming within 100 yards of their residence, job, and vehicle; and can even require you to move out of your own home. Thus, it is even more important in a Domestic Violence case to be well-prepared for your first court date.

7. WHAT IS THE GENERAL PROCESS OF A CRIMINAL CASE?

  • Arraignment:  The first court date. Court finds out who your lawyer is, or if you need one. DA can request bail, a bail increase, and/or a victim protection order. “Not Guilty” plea is entered. Ideally, the lawyer now receives the police reports. Another court date, typically for “First Pretrial Conference,” is scheduled. 
  • Pretrial Conferences:  The default limited-purpose court dates. Lawyers talk to the DA; hold plea-bargain negotiations; exchange or discuss evidence; enter settlements; and set dates for future hearings.
  • Request Diversion:  If eligible, we can request a Pretrial Diversion Hearing, which is essentially a formal request to the judge for the opportunity to earn a dismissal of your case, based on good character evidence.
  • Motions:  If the police or DA violated laws that require the judge to throw evidence out, or dismiss your case, we can request a Pretrial Motion with an Evidentiary Hearing to attempt to achieve that result.
  • Settlement/Open Plea:  Most cases settle. If they settle without a plea bargain, that is called an “Open Plea.”
  • Trial Readiness:  The last court date before the one for Trial. The last chance to settle for most cases. 
  • Trial:  Typically by jury; a Trial lasts anywhere from 3 days to several months depending on the case.
  • Preliminary Hearing:  In all felony cases, before the case can have Trial, the DA must prove to the judge at a hearing called a “Preliminary Hearing” that they have “legally sufficient” evidence. The bar is low however, as “legally sufficient evidence” is not the same as “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Generally, the process is: have Arraignment; gather and review evidence; begin plea-bargain negotiations with the DA; assess the merits and pros/cons of pursuing any Pretrial Motions or a Request for Diversion; attempt counter-plea-bargain negotiations with the DA; present any desired Pretrial Motions and/or a Request for Diversion; settle if desired; have Trial if desired. An Appeal can be filed if the judge makes an incorrect ruling.

8. CAN I HAVE MY BAIL REDUCED?

Perhaps, but if you used a bail company so that you pay only 7-10% of the total bail amount, then you must pay that bail company the amount you promised them no matter what; even if the court reduces your bail to $0.

9. WHY HIRE A PRIVATE DEFENSE ATTORNEY AS OPPOSED TO ACCEPTING A PUBLIC DEFENDER AS MY LAWYER? 

Some people can’t receive the services of the Public Defender’s Office because they make too much money. A court only appoints a public defender “…if you cannot afford an attorney…” which is not merely assumed. Others choose private counsel because privately retained attorneys have less cases, are more reachable, and generally have more time available to speak to with clients and work on their cases then public defenders do. For DUI cases, another reason to hire private defense counsel is because public defenders do not represent drivers in the associated DMV administrative, non-criminal, license suspension/revocation hearings.

10. WHY HIRE ME?

All lawyers will say they are skilled. My best advice is to hire a lawyer you trust. What sets me apart is:

  • I am very good at explaining this process, and my own unique process, in easy-to-understand terms.
  • I enjoy explaining it to others, and prefer all my clients understand; what I am doing, why I am doing it, and what choices or decisions are potentially going to come next.
  • I provide my clients with copies of the police reports and other evidence because you and I are a team.
  • I will not encourage you to have us file a meritless motion just to charge you an additional fee.
  • I won't charge hidden “coordination fees” for coordinating the efforts of experts, investigators, and other service proviers. 
  • I won't tell you the risks are more severe than they are to scare you into hiring me, and LIKEWISE …
  • I  won't downplay the impact of a conviction or no-contest-plea to misguide you to settle your case.
  • I help my clients to find DUI schools, required counseling, ignition interlock device installers; etc…
  • I notify my clients when they become eligible for Expungement, or Sealing of their Arrest Record.
  • I do not accept cases outside my regional area of expertise, which is; Alameda, San Joaquin, and Contra Costa County.

11. My Billing practices

I use a flat fee, not an hourly one, so you always know how much everything will cost. For most misdemeanors, I accept payment plans, interest free, as small as $200/month. I accept cash, check, debit, and credit cards. 

I NEVER require payment of my full fee unless and until after criminal charges are actually filed, because not all arrests result in charges being filed, and I believe it’s unfair to charge a full-price for less than a full-job.

IN MY OPINION, the practice of criminal defense attorneys charging their FULL fee regardless of whether criminal charges are filed generally restricts access to legal services in the community by forcing people to choose between potentially overpaying for legal services, or having to forgo them completely.  

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